We've decided to keep honeybees at Linwell Farms!
Every year, in late winter, the Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association holds classes to teach the basics of beekeeping. We've signed up for the 9-week course (we meet once a week) and are about halfway through. We knew it would be interesting, we didn't realize we'd be this interested and anxious to get our hives up and running. We also didn't realize how large the class would be - over 140 folks signed up this year.
Bees - if you are at all into gardening you know that many, if not most, plants we grow for food depend on pollination to grow their fruits and vegetables. And in most cases, the more pollination and cross-pollination they get, the better they do.
Wikipedia defines pollination as: "the process by which pollen is transferred from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of the plant, thereby enabling fertilization and reproduction.This takes place in the angiosperms, the flower bearing plants"
Though pollination can occur without any help from "outside forces", much of the work to pollinate plants and flowers is done by pollinators, and most of them are insects - butterflies and bees primarily. Most plants do better the more pollination that occurs in their growing and flowering season.
There are a few reasons we've decided to keep bees and why many others are doing the same.
To start, honeybees in general have been on the decline in recent years. They've termed the problem Colony Collapse Disorder. I've seen many theories and thoughts as to why (and to read more go HERE), but for the purpose of this post we won't really go into those but helping by "hosting" and having a couple hives at our home feels like a good thing to do.
Second, we also want the benefits of having thousands of pollinators right by our garden. As noted before, the more pollination most plants get, the better they do and the more prolific their yield can or will be. We also have a few fruit trees, all of which benefit heavily from pollination, and some like peaches, apples and pears, need to be cross-pollinated between different varieties in order to produce their fruit or to best produce their fruit. Having a couple hives of honeybees nearby should really boost that tremendously.
Finally, to sweeten the deal (Sorry, I had to...) we'll get honey! The first year we likely won't get much, possibly not any, but in years to come we should be able to produce all we'll ever need or want. We'll have it to eat for the health benefits, we'll have it to use in the kitchen, and we even plan on trying our hand at making mead, a fermented alcoholic honey "wine".
One of the main concerns we had, and probably most would have, is being stung. For us and for our three pups. I've been stung plenty of times in my life, bees, wasps and hornets. One of the first things we've learned in class is that of the stinging insects, honeybees are actually not considered aggressive. They protect their nest and they will sting if frightened, but overall they are working to build their nest, protect it, collect pollen and strengthen their colony to survive the winter. If handled properly a hive at home should not present a problem to you, your pets, or your neighbors!